Curtain comes down on another impressive youth team campaign...WALSALL youth team ended another momentous campaign with a 2-0 defeat to champions-elect Wigan Athletic at Ray Hall Lane.
Neil Woods used the game as an opportunity to blood several new scholars, with just one second year, Kory Roberts, involved in the game.
The youngsters finished third in the Football League Youth Alliance North-West Division and retained their Midland Youth Cup title less than 48 hours before they faced the Latics.
Despite the result and performance not being up to the high standards the Saddlers have set themselves, Woods preferred to focus on the bigger picture.
“The ones that started Thursday were running on empty, we had to take Cameron Peters off, who’s scored 18 goals, at half time because he couldn’t run anymore.
“The (Jordon) Sangha’s and the (Maziar) Kouhyar’s who have controlled the games this year aren’t there anymore, so it’s the start of a new era so we are looking for leaders and people to start taking responsibility.
“It wasn’t an easy game against a team that I believe will win the league, but there were some positives.
“It’s always good to get a few of the under-16s in at the end of the season because it gives them an idea of the pace and the tempo that they are going to be playing at.”
The Saddlers went toe-to-toe with Wigan during a competitive first half but the vastly experienced visitors took control of the game with a goal shortly before half time and never looked back.
Woods added: “I was quite pleased with some of the stuff we did first half, I thought we showed a basic understanding of what we are trying to do.
“I was very disappointed with the second half. I was disappointed with our understanding of what was going on in the game and our reactions to things weren’t great.
“We talked to them in the dressing room because it’s basically the squad that’s going to be there next year, so this is the start of the season and not the end.”
The Saddlers have now finished in the league’s top five for the last five years but Woods isn’t losing sight of the ultimate aim – to bring players through the system and into the first team.
“We want to have a constant flow of good players coming through, every so often you get an excellent crop but we want to be known as a club that consistently does well in the league and brings youngsters through.”